Origin Story

Look! Up in the Sky!

Look! Up in the Sky!

XxxxxxX

"...and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!" – Opening Narration, "The Adventures of Superman" TV Series

XxxxxxX

Alex smiled as she returned from the ladies room. She expected she was going to have to drop the hotel's concierge a huge tip for finding them tickets to this party at such a short notice. Originally, she thought the idea of a Halloween party on a casino cruise ship to be a bit... odd. The entire idea of getting on a ship, the Caribbean Queen, then sailing out past US territorial waters just so they could gamble seemed silly, especially since there was a casino on the Seminole reservation if people wanted to blow their money. But the music and the dinner and the dance floor made it all worth it.

The Queen wasn't a true cruise ship, but it was bigger than a yacht, and it served the purpose.

Alex had received many a compliment on her costume, and surprisingly few had anything to do with the cleavage window. It made her feel a lot better about wearing his colors. As corny as some people accused Superman of being, as old fashioned, as out of step with the times, as ridiculous... it didn't matter. Superman was Superman. He was the first and greatest of all the superheroes, ever, and in Alex's mind, nothing was ever going to chance that. Especially now that she was in the angst-ridden, grimmer-and-grittier Marvel Universe.

Of course, Louise, in her Poison Ivy costume, was receiving the lion's share of the appreciation. The fact that she was basically nude barring a tight layer of little plastic pieces helped garner her a level of attention that even the cleavage window didn't bring.

Louise was still at the bar, right where she'd left her, and it looked like she was successfully fending off another guy. The man was taller than Louise, but not enormously so, and was dressed in an exaggerated pinstripe suit and a white fedora, a gangster of some time.

Alex slowed her approach, and concentrated on the sound of their voices past the music coming from the speakers hanging above the dance floor. Alex was pleased to hear that the guy was obviously interested in Louise, but wasn't being pushy about it. He'd expressed an interest, she'd politely turned them down, and now they just seemed to be chatting.

"I'd imagine it would be," he was saying. "I mean, no offense, but you're really hot. And dressed like that?" He waved a hand toward the small collection of green plastic leaves that barely covered Louise at all. "I'd imagine that getting propositioned would be tiring. So, are you some sort of wood nymph or something?"

Louise laughed, a sound that always made Alex smile. "Or something. And if I wasn't with someone, it would be flattering. But I'm taken." Alex's smile widened as Louise's eyes met her own. Her partner shot Alex a smile, then bobbed her head in an obvious 'come here'. "And here's my hero now!"

The man turned just as Alex arrived. He had a friendly grin, but she could see his eyes widen as she looked up at her. He wasn't a short man by any means, but her six-foot-two beat his – Alex guessed maybe five-foot-ten – by several inches. His eyes went wide for a second as Louise snuggled into Alex's body, then returned to normal as he immediately made the connection between Louise's words

"Having fun, sweetie?" Alex leaned into Louise and kissed the top of her head. She turned to the guy and smiled. "Hi... thanks for taking care of Ivy for me."

The man smiled and nodded. "Sure. No problem." Alex caught the look in the man's eyes, and counted. Three... two... one... And there his eyes went. Down to the cleavage window, then back up. When his eyes came back up, they collided with hers, and he actually blushed. Alex found it endearing.

"Unt now iz zee time vee moost dahnce!" And with that Louise is tugging Alex back toward the dance floor. She gave the guy a wave and followed her partner. The music was frenetic and alive with energy, existing on the beat to provide the melody and little else. It was music designed solely to get you moving, not contemplate life or live or anything other than dancing.

The two of them danced like there was no tomorrow and neither had a care in the world. Occasionally a man, or two men, or sometimes even other women, would enter their orbit. When that happened, the pair would become a trio, or a quartet, or even once a sextet for a time, but it was clear to everyone who watched them that Alex and Louise were there together and no one was getting between them.

What eventually got in between them was the sound of automatic weapons fire. Four men, each armed with sub-machine guns, dressed like what all the more stylish video game mercenaries were wearing. They burst into the ship's dance club and fired over everyone's heads. On their way in, one of them smashed the butt of his weapon in the face of a man who didn't get out of the way in time.

Alex shoved Louise behind her. Kara's memories told her that this was classic operational methods for taking hostages when outnumbered. Blitz in loud, intimidate, and immediately apply physical violence while subduing the hostages to intimidate them into submission.

"Turn that shit off! Come out of that booth!" The lead merc shouted at the DJ. He didn't even look to see if he was being obeyed before turning to the crowd. "Everyone get down! Hands on your head. Cross your fucking ankles."

"Alex..." Louise whispered. Alex could tell she was scared, but she wasn't as scared as the people around them. That was probably a good thing. Alex was thinking quickly. The fact that they weren't covering their faces? Probably a bad thing.

"Do what they say." Alex shifted her vision up into the range of while she got to her knees. There were three more on the club deck. Two, maybe three – it was hard to tell because of the machinery – down in the engine room. There were two more up on the bridge, beating the heck out of the ship's captain and the navigational crew. And two maintaining position in the boats that brought them all here, alongside the Queen.

"Good evening ladies and gentlemen!" The lead gunman began. "We are tonight's entertainment. We specialize in brutal acts of violence against those who do not do every fucking thing we tell them to do!" The other gunmen strode slowly through the hostages, enforcing compliance with a kick or a shove. Each of them were being careful to look the hostages in the face, then consult a piece of paper in their hand. "You're probably thinking we're here to rob the place, and you're right. We're here for the cash reserve that the ship is required by law to carry as an active casino. We're also here to remove a specific individual whose parents I'm sure will be very very grateful for her return. So if your name isn't Siobhan Donnelly, all you need to do to get out of this unhurt is everything we tell you to do! If you do not do everything we tell you to do, we will shoot you dead!"

"Alex?" Louise whispers again. Alex turns to look at her and nods. Louise immediately relaxes slightly.

"Making sure I know where they all are." Alex whispers back.

"There's more?"

"Yeah." Their secretive conversation was disrupted when one of the gunman pressed his machine gun to the back of Alex's head. It would be funny if it weren't for the ricochets endangering the bystanders. Louise smirked anyway, and Alex loved her for it.

"Got her, boss." Gunman Three yanked a thin redheaded woman dressed in a 1920s flapper outfit to her feet.

"No talking." The gunman nudged Alex with his weapon's muzzle, and Louise's smile got wider. "What's so funny, bitch?" Louise doesn't respond, and the man started to get angry. "Answer me. What's so fucking funny?"

"You told us not to talk. Now you want me to answer you. Which is it?" Louise smiled up at the man. Butter couldn't melt in her mouth.

The gunman hauled back, about to bring the butt of his weapon down on Louise, when Alex moved. She grabbed his weapon and threw it through the ship's side hull and into the ocean. Careful to not actually kill him, she tossed the merc bodily into his closest colleague hard enough to fracture bone when they both smash headlong into the club's marble-topped bar. Alex pulled at gunmen Three and Four, driving the two men together like she was cleaning chalkboard erasers. Their machine guns followed the first through the wall and into the ocean. Once all four men were unconscious, she took her time, relatively, while removing the knives and pistols they were all carrying. After some thought, Alex also destroyed all but one of their radios.

From start to finish, three seconds.

Alex took a deep breath. "Everyone? I need you to stay calm, and more importantly stay here! I'll get rid of the gunmen on the other decks, but I need you folks to stay here where its safe." She turned to the girl. "Ms. Donnelly?" At the girl's nod, Alex smiled. "Maybe you should hide under the bar or something until its safe."

The friendly guy who had been chatting up Louise stood, still shaking, and asked, "Um, who, uh, who put you in charge?" Alex smiled at him and held up a handful of weapons. She crushed a pistol and a knife into a shiny ball while everyone watched, then dropped it to the deck at her feet. "Right!" The man said, his eyes lighting up. "Uh, you're in charge. You want us to just stay here, or should we find a better place to hide?"

"No, stay here. That way I know where you are. I'm going to take the others down and see what's going on with the ship. I'll talk to the Captain and get him to get us back to Miami." She nudged one of the unconscious gunmen with a toe. "See if you can find some way to tie these assholes up, just in case the regain consciousness before next July. I'll be back soon."

Alex met Louise's eyes. Her partner smiled, and blew her a kiss. Alex returned it, then headed out into the rest of the ship. Most of this deck, the club deck, was wide open space subdivided into large rooms. The restaurant, the club-slash-casino, and a small movie theater which thankfully was closed for the evening. Earlier she had noted the other three men in the restaurant, covering a handful of hostages.

She flew down the corridor, not making a sound, until she came to the restaurant's double doors. The gunmen had closed them, naturally, but a quick check with x-ray vision put the bad guys between her and the hostages. This was okay. They could shoot at her if they wanted as long as they didn't shoot the hostages. She took a deep breath before opening the doors as wide and as hard as she could without tearing them from their hinges.

"Hey, boys. Nice night for a walk, right?"

The three gunmen all spun toward her, taking their eyes from the hostages and putting them right where Alex wanted them: paying attention to her. Gunman Three brought up his sub-machine gun and fired. Alex speared the weapon's magazine with her heat vision, and the gun abruptly hang-fired as a distinct pop indicated the ammunition cooking off. The force of the bullet exploding wrecked the magazine, and sent small pieces of metal into the gunman himself, knocking him to the floor.

Before the other two could react Alex was on them. She grabbed both by the shoulder and knocked their heads together, then dropped them. The radio she'd clipped to her belt squawked to life. A man's voice yelling "What's that firing? Someone talk to me." Alex ignored it. She turned the speaker's volume down to where she could still hear it, but no one else could without being right on top of her.

"Who – who are you?" It was one of the hostages, an older matronly woman who looked to be there with her son and his companion.

There was a response to the radio call. She listened with half an ear. "Lead this is eight. Sounded like the firing came from the club deck."

"Hello, everyone! I'm here to help!" She poked her head out of the door to make sure it was clear, then waved everyone over. "I need you to head into the nightclub. No matter what happens, stay there until someone from law enforcement comes in. I've got to take care of the rest of them, so I don't have time to watch over all of you."

"We understand. Come, everyone." The older woman motioned to the other diners, then shooed everyone down the corridor. Before leaving herself, the woman put a hand on Alex's arm. "Bless you, my dear."

"Thanks." Alex smiled after the lady – she'd gone from 'older woman' to 'lady' in Alex's mind with the thank you – and watched to make sure they made their way to safety.

"Six this is lead. We heard shots coming from your 20. What's your status?" Alex didn't see a need to pull a John MacLane and play with them on the radio, so she kept silent. "Six. Respond, Six." Clearly, Six was lying unconscious in the nightclub. "Eight, this is lead. Did you finish in the engine room?"

"Roger, lead. We're already topside, heading back to the boats."

Alex shook her head. "No, that doesn't sound ominous at all," she muttered to herself. Using her x-ray vision, she could see the men going over the Queen's sides and returning to the smaller craft. Decisions, decisions. Figure out what they were doing into the engine room, or go after the small craft.

"Roger. This mission is blown. Go to plan B. Assume we're being monitored. Radio silence."

There was no choice at all. Going after the bad guys might be satisfying, but she had a shipload of passengers to watch out for, and they could have done anything to the engines. Alex figured if she was lucky, the bad guys wrecked them. If she was unlucky? The engine room might be on fire, or worse rigged with explosives. Alex forced the door marked 'Crew Only Please' and entered the gangway down that would lead her into the maintenance areas of the ship, the galley, and the engine room.

Alex followed her ears to find the engine room. The gigantic diesel-powered beasts were still chugging away, but there were yellow rope and four gray-wrapped packages at either end of each of the four engines. Memories from both Kara and Xander identified the ropes as det cord, while the packages were shaped charges. Alex reached down to pick up the first when it exploded in her face.

As she watched, the directed explosion blew out the bottom of the boat and the engines fell, disappearing into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Those same waters rushed in to replace them. Without really thinking about it, Alex powered through the rushing water and secured the doors to the engine room. She bolted the toggles and waited as the ship settled around her to see if they were going to hold. They were designed to, but...

They held. Nodding to herself, Alex dove out through the hole left by the explosion. She circled the ship, underwater, looking for more signs of damage. More signs that the Caribbean Queen was taking on more water. It was sitting low, and had developed a distinct sternward list, but the ship wasn't going to be moving any time soon on its own, but it wasn't sinking any further. This was a good thing.

Alex breached the surface and flew to the ship's bridge. As she stepped through an exterior door into the control room, Alex called, "Captain, I'm... shit." The only people on the bridge were messily dead. The gunmen had executed the crew and left the bodies where they lay. Gunshots to the head. Some of the crew weren't all that recognizable anymore. She needed to report this.

Alex looked around for the ship's radio station, only to find it a smoking ruin. "So much for calling the coast guard."

Alex sighed again. She decided to tell the passengers gathered in the nightclub what was going on, then move the Queen back to Miami herself. She rushed back through the ship to the nightclub, keeping to normal human speeds. And when she stepped through the door, she was hit across the shoulders by a bar stool. It bent around her.

The man who swung the bar stool was dressed like a Roman centurion. Alex rolled her eyes, shrugged out of the now wrecked stool's frame, and handed it back to him. "Sorry... thought you were one of, you know."

"Yeah, I got that. No problem."

"Young lady," It was the nice woman from the restaurant. "Are we sinking? We heard a loud explosion, then the ship tipped ever so slightly backward."

"The ship is no longer sinking, but I'm afraid the engines are a loss. Also, the gunmen shot and killed the crew." She looked around. No one was on their cell phones at the moment. "Does anyone have a cell phone?"

Most of the crowd, including Louise, put their hands up. "Great. Has anyone called for help?"

Several people responded, most with some variant of "Can't get a signal" or "No reception out here."

"Anyone have a satellite phone? No. Well, damn. All right. I'm going to try and move us back into Port of Miami. It might get a little shaky, but I'm not going to let anything happen to any of you. I want you all to trust me when I say that. Your safety is my highest concern right now." Alex met Louise's eyes. Her partner nodded at her, obviously trusting Alex completely. "I'm not going to be moving us fast. I don't want to shake you guys up. So the moment you have a signal, call 911 or the coast guard or something and tell them what's going on."

"Um... I don't want to be that guy," It was Al Capone, the nice guy who'd been hitting on Louise. "But are you sure you can tow us back? I mean, I get that you're, like, a real life superhero, but this boat has to weigh like a couple hundred tons, right?"

"I can handle it. I'm, uh, I'm really strong." Alex shrugged. "You know Thor? Of the Avengers? How strong he is?" There were more nods. "Yeah. I'm stronger than him. I'm like, Hulk strong. And I can fly, so don't worry."

"Okay, cool." The guy was beginning to look a little star-struck. "Um... what do we call you?"

"Superwoman." It was Louise. It had to be Louise. Traditionally, it was always Superman's girlfriend, Lois Lane, who gave the hero his public moniker. And here, her partner was doing it for her. "Her name is Superwoman."

Alex smiled at her. She couldn't help it. Here she was, all by her lonesome, going to carry the Big Blue Boy Scout's legacy into a world that needed a symbol of incorruptibility. She wanted it. Alex flew up and out of the ship, and then entered the water. She centered herself beneath the Caribbean Queen, and then gently pressed upward, lifting with her flight more than her raw strength. The ship rose, a little shaky at first, but eventually steadying.

Alex scanned the horizon until she spotted the lights of Miami, seventeen or eighteen miles away. She pushed the ship upward until she was clear of the ocean's roll. The sudden thought that she was carrying a cruise ship on her back caused her to grin.

"You will believe a man can fly..." Alex whispered, beginning the trip home. Within seconds she was humming, and then be-bopping, and then scatting the tune loudly as she flew the ship back to port. It was the tune. The superhero anthem. In her opinion, John Williams' masterpiece.

"bump-a-dump. bump-a-dump-bump-a-dump. bump-a-dump- bump-a-dump. bump-a-dump- bump-a-dump-bump-a-dump. Bump-a-dump-bump-a-dump-dump-a-dump. Bump-a-dump bum bum bum bump-a-dump-a-bum. BUMP-BADABAH! BUMP-BUMP-BADABAH! BUMP-A-DAH! BUMP-BUMP-BADA DAH! BUMP-A-DAH! BUMP-BUMP-BADABADA! BUMP-BUMP-BUH-DAH-DUMP! BUMP-BUMP-BUMP-BADA-BAH!"

It wasn't the greatest rendition of John Williams' Superman theme that had ever been performed, but it might have been one of the most heartfelt. Alex never realized that she could be heard inside the ship, or that someone was using their cell phone to record her singing along to a tune in her head. Within a week, it would go viral on YouTube.

XxxxxxX

Breaking overnight, a cruise ship was saved overnight by the same super-powered Samaritan who's good deeds amazed all of Miami-Dade County last week. When a band of heavily armed terrorists took over the cruise ship, killing the captain and crew and causing the ship to start sinking, this new superheroine, who calls herself Superwoman, actually lifted the rapidly sinking ship out of the water and flew it back to the Port of Miami.

She then held the ship out of the water long enough for all one hundred and eight passengers to make it safety on shore before lowering the ship into the Port's waters again before flying off into the night sky. Police and local FBI agents have taken six of the terrorists into custody, but according to eye-witnesses, several more escaped.

Action 10 News will bring you more, including exclusive interviews with the hostages saved by Miami's own super-heroine, later on Action 10 News in the Morning!

XxxxxxX

"Alex, we could have done this in Miami. Its warm in Miami." Alex watched Louise shiver. Her partner had become acclimated to Miami quickly, and grew to love the warm weather. Charlotte, North Carolina was simply too cold to the brand new 'Floridian'.

"I'm too famous in Miami, remember? That's the entire point of doing this. I need to build a disguise. So people won't recognize me." Alex stepped into the costume shop and looked around. Seemed to be the right place. "After this, I want to hit a wig shop, and an optometrist."

"I can't believe you really think your plan is going to work. I mean, come on. You're planning on wearing a wig and a pair of glasses to disguise your identity. Why not a mask or a hood or something?"

"Tradition." Alex lead her to the sales counter. "And its not just the wig and glasses. Its a hole thing. I'll slouch, I'll stutter sometimes. Raise my voice a little, or make it really nasal. Trust me! It worked for Christopher Reeve, it should work for me."

"Who's Christopher Reeve?"

"Fantastic actor. Amazing actor. Totally under-appreciated. But he played Superman in the first really great superhero movie ever made back home." Alex smiled at the guy behind the counter and leaned over just so. She smiled as the kid's eyes dipped downward, then snapped back up... then trailed downward again. "Hi there. I was hoping you could help me find something that will help me look, heavier. I mean, like chunkier. I've got a role in an independent movie, and I need to look like I'm about thirty, maybe forty pounds overweight. Can you help me?"

"Uh, yeah! Sure. Follow me!" The kid took another look at the decolletage, then moved from behind the counter. "Anyway, he played Superman. But he also played Clark Kent, Superman's alter ego. And he changed his hairstyle, wore a nerdy pair of glasses, stuttered, slouched, raised his voice an octave, wore clothes that were too big. And it was like he was playing two characters entirely."

"If you say so." Louise obviously still had her doubts.

"Trust me!" Alex shoved the padded bras out of the way. She so didn't need one of those. But the stomach and ass combination might work. She grabbed one of each. "Oh hey... what color for the wig? Red? Brown? How about jet black?"

Louise stared at her. "Go with red. It would look better with those eyes of yours."

"What's the matter with my eyes?"

"They're robin's egg blue, Alex. They're gorgeous. And the red hair will make them stand out more." Louise followed to the check-out. A quick sixty bucks later, and Alex had the first makings of her secret identity.

"I still think you're going to look stupid, but I love you anyway. Want you to know that."

"Why thank you, Louise. I appreciate it," Alex responded, rolling her eyes.

It took them an hour to find a wig shop, and then a second hour for Alex to finally choose a wig she liked. It was actual human hair, and she'd have to care for it like it was a head of hair, but she had it. The Lenscrafter was easier to find, and buying a set of frames with ineffective show-room lenses was child's play.

Twelve hours later they were back in Miami. Louise stood outside the bathroom door as Alex puttered about inside. She didn't want her partner to see until everything was perfect.

"Okay, I picked up this blouse-skirt combination yesterday. I think I'm going to be dressing up when I'm out and about. Not really fancy, but, you know... not a lot of t-shirts and jeans." Alex called through the door. "Though occasionally. Nothing slutty. Alexandra Harris doesn't do slutty. She's too shy for it."

She made the last adjustments on the coppery wig and sighed, studying herself in the mirror. She glanced in the sink and sighed, but realized it was for a good cause. One last look-over, and she put the glasses, with their wide, friendly-looking oval lenses, on her face. "Now or never," she said to herself.

Alex decided to go the band-air route and swung the door open fiercely. Louise looked up from where she was leaning across the hall, then stopped, mouth agape.

"Okay, what's wrong? I thought I got it looking okay." Alex brought a hand up to her face, then the wig."

"No, it looks... You look amazing. You look nothing like yourself!" Louise into a hug while Alex beamed at her. "Seriously, when you said you were going to try and pull this off with nothing more than a wig and glasses and body language... Alex... wow." Louise did a slow walk around Alex, examining everything. "Its like... you're not as tall. And you can't tell in that skirt and that blouse how muscular you are. You're wearing those pads, so you look a little frumpier." Louise came back around to Alex's front and kissed her. "Your face looks different because of the glasses, and the way you styled that wig, its not your usual hair-do. If I didn't know it was you."

"Well, that's sort of the..." Alex trailed off as Louise began to stare into the bathroom. At the sink specifically. "Alex, what did you do?" She rushed past Alex and grabbed the handfuls and handfuls of gloriously blonde hair laying within them. "You cut your hair short? But you loved your hair! I thought..."

"It was time for a change." Alex shrugged. "No one will connect a short-haired blonde with a long-haired redhead. And it makes wearing the wig easier."

"Right. That makes sense." Louise nodded. "And you can always grow it back out if you change your mind."

"You hate it don't you. Liked me with long hair?"

Alex watched Louise sigh. "Hey, what can I say. I have a thing for women with long hair. Its a turn on for me."

"Tell you what. Let's go get lunch, then catch a movie or something. I don't feel like sitting around."

XxxxxxX

Transcript of the Monsters in the Morning radio show, November 11, 2006.

Host Russ Rollins. Co-Hosts James "Dirty Jim" Colbert, Daniel Dennis, and Tom "Drunky the Bear" Vann. Special Guest: Superwoman.

DRUNKY THE BEAR: Now, don't take this the wrong way, but are you Karen Starr, the same girl we saw on YouTube kicking the Avengers ass all over a California beach last month?

JAMES "DIRTY JIM" COLBERT: Drunky, I'm sure that's exactly what she wants to do on a nationally syndicated radio program. Admit that she's a fugitive.

SUPERWOMAN: No, its okay. To answer the question, yes and no. I'm not Karen Starr. From what I can tell, Karen Starr was a girl who looked just like me, and when they tried to ID me after the fight, they connected the two of us. But I'm not Karen Starr.

DANIEL DENNIS: Our government at work, folks.

(everyone laughs)

DANIEL DENNIS: Are you keeping a secret identity then? You know they can't hear it when you nod.

(everyone laughs)

SUPERWOMAN: Yep. Despite what it looks like, I'm actually a pretty private person. Ooh. Pretty private person. Yay for alliteration! I'll be honest, I try to keep my private life private and my public life, well, figure it out. I'm here.

DIRTY JIM: So why were they serving a no-knock on you?

SUPERWOMAN: You'd have to ask SHIELD. All I know is that the reason they were serving the no-knock warrant on the house I was staying at was bogus. So as far as I know, I'm legally in the clear right now. At least the Miami-Dade police and the Dade County Sheriffs, and even the FDLE have been friendly and cooperative.

RUSS ROLLINS: Like a couple of days ago when you helped them catch that guy in the truck. The guy smuggling the heroin?

SUPERWOMAN: Right. Or the pirates who tried to take the cruise ship.

RUSS ROLLINS: They just burst into your bedroom while you were sleeping, you said? That must have been a big surprise.

SUPERWOMAN: Yep. Sentry came crashing right through my ceiling. If I hadn't already pushed my girlfriend out into the hall, she'd probably been hurt by falling wreckage. It was intense.

DRUNKY: Wait... you just said girlfriend? As in girlfriend, girlfriend? You're a lesbian? Why didn't anyone tell me that the hot chick with superpowers was a lesbian?

(everyone laughs)

DIRTY JIM: I'm afraid you might have just burst a couple of Drunky's more exotic fantasies.

SUPERWOMAN: Or added to a couple of them.

(everyone laughs again)

DIRTY JIM: That too.

RUSS ROLLINS: So I guess you're comfortable with yourself enough so that it doesn't bother you if other people know you're gay, then?

SUPERWOMAN: Hey, its really nobody's business but my own, but no, I don't mind. Its just a part of who I am.

DRUNKY: Are you seeing anybody?

SUPERWOMAN: I am. I'm a committed monogamous relationship with a beautiful woman who I love more than my own life, so yeah.

DIRTY JIM: My Lord, look at her eyes. The girl's in love.

RUSS ROLLINS: I think that's pretty cool. I gotta be honest with you, I don't know too many superheroes, ya know? I mean, I met the Human Torch once, but he lives a pretty public life. I'd imagine that its hard to keep a relationship going with all that sort of weird pressure and all. I mean, imagine setting up for a quiet candlelight dinner at home and then suddenly its like, 'Honey, I've got to go punch out Doctor Doom. Let's rain-check this.'

SUPERWOMAN: Well, I'm not going to say it hasn't caused stress, but luckily she's really supportive. And every part of my life that's not helping other people and, you know, stopping crime and natural disasters and things, its all about her.

DRUNKY: I take it you don't want to actually give anybody her name.

SUPERWOMAN: A world of no. I mean, I know she's listening, so when I say, "Honey I love you, see you this afternoon for lunch" she knows I'm talking to her, but I'm not going to just say, "Mary, this one's for you." And no...

RUSS ROLLINS: … her name ain't Mary, I take it.

SUPERWOMAN: Right. Its not even close to Mary.

DIRTY JIM: So, you ready for the Official Monsters in the Morning List of Difficult Questions to Be Asked at All Celebrity Interviews?

SUPERWOMAN: Hit me.

DIRTY JIM: Whose the most famous person other than yourself that you've ever met, and what was your opinion of them.

SUPERWOMAN: That would probably be Magneto. And he was really polite. I mean, all about the old school European charm. I imagine meeting him is what meeting Ian McKellan would be like. Or Colin Firth or one of those guys.

DRUNKY: You met Magneto? Wow. Did you guys fight?

SUPERWOMAN: Nope. Had breakfast.

RUSS ROLLINS: You had breakfast with Magneto? How'd that happen?

SUPERWOMAN: He wanted to recruit me into his Mutant Liberation thing. I'm sympathetic, but I'm not a mutant. Besides, I don't have time to be a terrorist right now.

RUSS ROLLINS: Huh. Well... go ahead, Jimmy. I don't think the next question's going to be as serious.

DIRTY JIM: Indeed it isn't, sir. Are you a natural blonde? Does the carpet match the drapes?

SUPERWOMAN: Yep. (laughs) Though, uh, there's not all that much carpet. I keep a little landing strip and that's it. My partner likes it that way. She doesn't like, you, know, 80s porn hair, but she's not into completely bald, either, so...

DIRTY JIM: Really? That's so hot.

SUPERWOMAN: (Laughing) I do try.

DIRTY JIM: Favorite color?

SUPERWOMAN: Green. (a pause as they stare at her costume) Oh come on guys, don't stare at the costume like that. Just because I like green doesn't mean I have to wear it all the time. Besides, there's a reason I picked these colors.

DRUNKY: And the S is for Superwoman, right?

SUPERWOMAN: (sighs) Yes, the S is for Superwoman. Well, not just Superwoman, but that's all I'm explaining. There's another reason for that, too, but... let's just say that its not just for Superwoman.

DIRTY JIM: Favorite Bond?

SUPERWOMAN: Connery, duh.

DIRTY JIM: Favorite Band?

SUPERWOMAN: I don't know... I'm eclectic. Nerf Herder? Cibo Matto. Foo Fighters.

DANIEL DENNIS: Wow. Flash me back to 90s indie club rock. Nerf Herder?

SUPERWOMAN: I'm also a huge Garth Brooks fan. Patsy Cline. Like the occasional NWA and Public Enemy joint.

DRUNKY: Old school.

SUPERWOMAN: (laughs) Yeah, old school.

DIRTY JIM: And for the last question, can you name a person you be willing to have sex with, but only if you were paid a million dollars?

SUPERWOMAN: (laughing) Wow. My partner is going to hate this. You're getting me in trouble, you know that, right?

RUSS ROLLINS: Oh, does she get jealous?

SUPERWOMAN: No, not really. (laughs) Its just we don't need the million, so if I answer...

DRUNKY: Wait, you don't need the million?

SUPERWOMAN: Nope. (laughs) Make of it what you will.

RUSS ROLLINS: Look out everybody, she's not just a hot lesbian chick with superpowers, she's a hot rich lesbian chick with superpowers.

SUPERWOMAN: (Laughing) How about I just pass on this question.

RUSS ROLLINS: I've got a question for ya. What's with the, uh... (points)

SUPERWOMAN: The boob window? (laughs)

RUSS ROLLINS: (laughing) Yeah, we'll call it that. The boob window. What's up with it.

SUPERWOMAN: Well, multiple things. First, as you can already tell, I'm not exactly shy and retiring, right? And yeah, there's a reason for the boob window other than just to show the girls off. Not that I'm not proud of the girls and all, but yeah, there's a reason. A personal reason. And, uh, I'm just going to leave that there.

DIRTY JIM: You've got implants, then?

SUPERWOMAN: (Laughing) Oh wow, you know, you're the first person to ever ask me that. I mean it. You really are. First person ever. But no, these puppies are all mine. 100% natural.

DIRTY JIM: Do, uh, do you mind if we ask... ah... how to do this delicately... what exactly is your... (makes a gesture)

SUPERWOMAN: I'm a 40-H. And if any of the bra manufacturers out there are listening, I just want to say thanks for nothing. You know how hard it is to find a bra in that size that's anything other than either the flat white granny-style or the porn-star special? There is a middle ground, guys.

(everyone laughs)

DANIEL DENNIS: On a more serious note, we all watched you on the news yesterday, with that girl on the ledge? Personally I think that was great, you talking to her like that. Is she doing okay?

SUPERWOMAN: As far as I've heard, she'd doing fine. She's going to get some counseling, seek out some assistance. I really hope she keeps her chin up.

DIRTY JIM: So whose the toughest villain you've fought so far?

SUPERWOMAN: Um, technically I haven't fought any villains yet. Out of the Avengers, though? Sentry's a bad ass. He's almost as strong as I am. Wonder Man's pretty tough too, though I found out later he's really a nice guy. It was all a huge misunderstanding.

DIRTY JIM: So nothing bad about the Avengers, then?

SUPERWOMAN: Well, Captain Marvel's a total [BLEEPED OUT]. Can I say [BLEEPED OUT] on the radio?

RUSS ROLLINS: Not technically, but we're running on a delay, so it'll get bleeped out.

SUPERWOMAN: Okay, in that case yeah, Captain Marvel is a complete and total [BLEEPED OUT] and I am so glad I kicked her ass. Twice.

DIRTY JIM: Don't hold back, now... tell us how you really feel?

(everyone laughs)

XxxxxxX

Cain Marko couldn't help but laugh at the opposition lined up against him. The usual collection of police – both regular and SWAT. They weren't worth bothering about. He knew this was going to be an easy job when he hired on for it; Tampa wasn't known for its superheroes and the local police were simply outgunned when it came to him. They didn't call him the Juggernaut for nothing. Something he hadn't known about Tampa, on the other hand, was that it was one of the hubs for the diamond trade in the United States. Hence his current presence in the city.

The job itself had been simple. He had burst through the wall of a diamond vault, filled an empty safety deposit drawer with as many of the stones as he could, and then simply walked out. The police had shot at him as usual – they were still shooting at him, in fact – but he ignored it as usual. Now it was merely a matter of –

"Wow! This is so cool!"

Marko slowed, but did not stop. There was no point in stopping, after all. But he slowed so he could try and get a look at the girl – it was a girl's voice – who had moved close enough to speak to him without his seeing her. For the umpteenth time, he cursed the fact that, in his 'work clothes', he couldn't turn his head for shit. So slowing down, moving his eyes around, and occasionally turning in place had to do the job for him.

There was a girl floating in the air in front of him, dressed in a blue and red outfit with a free flowing red cape. She was blonde, looked to be around 20, and was muscled like an athlete. His eyes almost automatically traveled to a carefully positioned hole in her top that showed an impressive amount of cleavage.

"I mean, I have to tell you, when I pictured my first real fight with a supervillain as an active hero, I never thought it would be with you. I mean, wow. You're like, a legend!"

The Juggernaut grunted, but didn't answer. She was a distraction. There was no way she could stop him, so he just kept walking. His plan was to evade pursuit by walking into Tampa Bay, then crossing it under the water. He had an appointment with a fence in Chicago in a week.

"So, uh, I guess before we get started with this fight... I mean, I was hoping I could ask you a couple of questions." The girl was still talking. He rolled his eyes at her. She was still just floating here, flying backward at the same pace he was moving. But he had to admit, she was pretty. And the thing with the questions...

"What questions?" He was surprised. He'd responded before he knew he was going to.

"Oh! Cool. Well, for one, I was wondering just how you thought you were going to escape? I mean, not to toot my own horn here, but I can move pretty quickly and you really, really can't. I figure I can follow you pretty much anywhere. I can hold my breath for hours and hours." Inside his helmet, Marko frowned. If that was true, she might be more of an annoyance than he thought. "Also, have you ever considered that there's really nothing stopping me from following you to whoever is going to fence those diamonds and making trouble for them even if I can't stop you?"

Marko laughed at that. The girl was creative, he'd give her that.

"Little girl," he said finally. "Why don't you just move along. You apparently know who I am, so you know what I can do. All you're going to do is get yourself hurt." He hated fighting girls. Not that he wouldn't fight a girl, but he didn't like doing it. But rather than take the out he was offering her, she giggled at him. Giggled! At him, the God-damned Juggernaut. Who the hell did the bitch think he was? Still giggling, the girl backed up a half-dozen yards or so and dropped to the ground in front of him. On the ground, he had some perspective and realized that she was probably over six feet tall. Not that it mattered, given that he was a couple of inches over seven feet now, but tall women always impressed him.

"Okay." She shook her head, still laughing. "I don't really figure this is going to work, but I just have to try it, okay?" Again, he rolled his eyes at her. He watched as the girl visibly braced herself in front of him; it was his time to laugh. They always tried this. It never worked, but they always tried this. The came together, inexorably, and to Marko's surprise, he stopped dead in his tracks. One second, two seconds... he could feel himself slip forward, but it was incredibly gradual. Her arms started shaking. Five seconds, six seconds... the girl gritted her teeth as she slipped back a fraction of an inch. Nine seconds, ten seconds... and then to Cain Marko's relief the girl was moving backward. It was slow, and she was digging into the ground with her feet, but it was happening. No one had ever succeeded in holding him motionless at all before, much less doing it for close to ten seconds.

"Well, shit! I thought that might work for a minute." The girl didn't seem tired, just frustrated. Cain laughed at her. He blinked as a bullet that he thought was meant for him careened off of her into his chest, where it pinged off into the sky.

"Okay then, we'll try something else." In a heartbeat, she vanished. Literally, one moment she was there, the next she was not. Marko gaves himself a shrug and kept walking. He figured he couldn't be more than a couple of blocks away from the bay by now. He'd just started daydreaming about that beach house in Fiji he was planning on buying with the diamond money when the train hit him. The force of the impact rocked him back on his heels, and for the second time in a single day he was stopped cold in his tracks. His ears rang from the impact, and everything went blurry for a second.

The girl was picking herself up off the ground at his feet. He looked down at her, wondering how the hell she got there, when he noticed the absolutely huge dent in his chest armor.

"Okay, that worked a bit better, but still not well enough." She was dusting herself off as if absolutely nothing had just happened. His ears were still ringing, and the little bitch wasn't even dazed? She looked up at him as he growled at her. "Okay, time to think outside the box."

"Sure, girly, whatever." He swiped at her with a fist that was larger than her entire head, and to his great surprise, she caught it.

She. Caught. It.

"Thanks! Its so thoughtful, giving me a present like that. I even love the color!" With that, she twisted his wrist in place, spinning him bodily through the air. He slammed head-first into the tarmac, his head burying itself, before the rest of his body fell to the ground. He scrambled back to his feet in no time; he was surprisingly fast for a man his size. And there she was, floating in the air, holding his crate of diamonds.

"Ta dah!" She crowed. She was smug. She was making fun of him. And she had the right to be. If he didn't get away with the diamonds, there was no point to the exercise at all. He lunged at her, but again she vanished into thin air. In a moment she reappeared, empty-handed. "Now that's out of the way, let's see what I can do about you, huh?"

"Where'd you take my diamonds?" He gruffs at her. Marko is fairly sure she's not going to answer, but is surprised when she does.

"They weren't your diamonds, Juggie." The girl rolled her eyes at him in an overly-exaggerated gesture. "I took them back to their owner. Now, we going to do this, or -"

"Shut up." Her voice stopped as he swung at her again. She ducked aside his first punch, second punch. Pushed his arm out of line on the third and he realized with some shock that she was not only faster than he was, but a lot stronger. It cames as a shock because so far in his life, he'd only met one person who was, and that person was really huge, really green, and really, really angry. This girl is tall and muscular, sure, but she didn't look like she should be this strong. Not strong like the Hulk was strong.

She blocked one last punch before returning it, and the impact of her fist on his helmet was enough to cause an entire carillon of bells to ring in his head. There was an odd pinching around one side of his face, and he realized with a shock that his helmet was dented to the point that it was restricting his movement.

"Hey, I just had a thought." She blocked two more punches before again slamming her fist into his head. Again, the dome-like helmet dented, and from the inside he could see the hint of light along one of the seams. "Once you get started, you can't be stopped easily. But what if I do this?"

Before Marko could react, she danced around him and delivered a kick to the middle of his back, propelling him along the course he was already moving. The force of the kick made him feel like his spine was about to rupture, and as he bounced along the ground like a stone skipping across water, he honestly wondered to himself how it was that no one whose ever fought him thought to do that.

Before he had a chance to stop bouncing, she was there. "Hey, that worked pretty well. How about this?" The girl hooked a toe beneath him, and suddenly the Juggernaut found himself in the air, in a spin. Every half-second or so, his view alternated between earth and sky. The motion began to make him nauseous. And she was there again, meeting him in mid-air. "So, now we know how to take care of the juggernaut. Bye, Mr. Marko. Don't come back."

He could feel the girl grab him by the ankle with both hands, and suddenly he was spinning like a top. Faster, and faster, and faster, and faster. His head clogged as the blood rushed to it, and he grayed out. He couldn't help it. Within a second, he'd puked up the beef stroganoff he had at the Russian place before the job. It splattered around inside the remains of his helmet, coating his face, his neck, his hair...

And then he was floating. He kept his eyes closed, still fighting the nausea. It's a long while before the dizziness goes away, and until then he couldn't think straight, but eventually, his head cleared. He was still spinning. He could feel that he was still spinning. Behind his eyelids, his field of vision was bright/dark/bright/dark.

He opened his eyes to see the earth flash beneath him, then a sky full of stars, then the earth, then the stars. Holy shit! I'm in orbit! He thought to himself. He recognized the Atlantic Ocean beneath him as his spin began to slow from the constant tugging of the Earth's gravity. As the Juggernaut re-entered the atmosphere, on a ballistic course that would eventually end somewhere in the Sahara Desert, he thought This is really going to suck.

XxxxxxX

When it happened, it took Tony Stark completely by surprise. He was standing at the helicarrier's command pedestal one moment, the next he was rolling across the floor toward the great floor-to-ceiling windows that made up the command center's front wall.

SHIELD had been tasked by the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Metahuman Affairs, and the Department of Defense to 'put a leash', to use the Vice-President's lovely phrasing, on the new phenomenon that had been making a splash in Florida and the entire south-eastern United States. This whirlwind apparently hadn't so much as waved in the general direction of Registering, and yet she operated with impunity. And since none of the usual methods of apprehension and interdiction were available (the Avengers were still mostly rebuilding from the disastrous fight with Karen Starr, and the less said about the Thunderbolts the better), it was up to SHIELD.

Tony Stark had his doubts. He suspected he knew very well who this 'Superwoman' would end up being, and he really wasn't looking forward to this. But he was the director of SHIELD now, as well as being Iron Man, and had a responsibility to see the directives given him from on high carried out.

The helicarrier lurched suddenly, tipping toward its bow. Everyone not strapped in, all across the massive vehicle, was thrown forward as momentum carried them along. It was as if someone has stomped on the craft's metaphorical brakes, or maybe like someone ran a car into a tree. Which was silly. Given the helicarrier's mass, it took close to a thousand yards for it to slow from flank speed to a dead stop, but that's precisely what happened here. And there wasn't any obstacles tall enough for them to run into here.

All around Stark, the crew desperately responded to emergency calls, damage reports, panicked questions from the other decks. He climbed to his feet, feeling shaky himself. A quick look outside told him that several of the smaller aircraft strapped down on the launch deck were now missing. He hoped no one was thrown clear of the helicarrier, but at this point there was no way to tell.

"Set engines to null. Station keeping only," Stark ordered as he returned to the command pedestal. "I can hear the engines beginning to whine and its only getting worse, so might as well stop them from burning up. Someone get me a comprehensive damage report."

His commands were followed immediately. Stark tapped on the flat screen console, looking for answers, but there weren't any. The security cameras were showing all sorts of damage: lab equipment tossed about, the hangers and storerooms in disarray, personal quarters in ruins. But no sign of a cause.

"All right. I'm stepping outside. Agent Coulson, you're in command until I get back." He'd taken a couple of steps toward the elevator, when one of the tech specialists in the pit called out.

"Director Stark! Look!" He followed the pointing arm to the bow windows. There, floating three feet above the deck and looking really, really pissed off, was a statuesque blonde in a red and blue suit. Her cape billowed out behind her in the wind. As he watched, the woman grinned and raised a single finger and waggled it at him. It took Stark a moment to realize that this was Alexandra Harris, the former Karen Starr. Murdered two years ago by her father, and resurrected with the power of a god.

Turned out his suspicions of the true identity of Superwoman were right. He sighed, knowing that this situation could get out of control quickly.

What happened next was too surreal to be believed. The Harris woman took her upraised finger and dragged it down the transparent metal that made up the windows, leaving a deep gouge. The sound her fingernail made tore through every agent on the bridge. They collectively winced as their teeth began aching.

Stark stared as, slowly, the gouges the young woman was putting in the helicarrier's front windows – windows that were made of transparent duranium and not glass – began to spell out words. When she was finished, there were fewer than three windows unscathed, but the message could be read clearly.

It said, over and over, GO HOME NOW OR I WILL CRASH YOU.

Stark thought about it, then hit a control on his console activating the ship-wide PA system, including the exterior speakers. "Ah... Nice to see you, um, again. We should talk. Would you care to step inside? We can talk it. You know, you, your career as a superhero. Maybe the bill to have those scratches buffed out of our unbreakable metal windows."

She hung there, in the air, before nodding. Stark pointed to his left, her right, and the nearest doorway into the bridge from the outside. When she left for the door, he turned to the navigation team. "Back us up a mile and a half. Make sure we are nowhere near Florida airspace for now."

"Sir?"

"Just... just do it, okay? There's a very good chance that we all could die in the next few minutes when that woman takes down this multi-billion dollar weapon system we're all riding in."

"Oh come on, Mister Stark. I wouldn't let you die." And there she was. Alex Harris in all her glory. "Hello, Tony. All healed up, I see. Sorry about the leg."

"Yes, well... believe it or not the downtime was good for me. Very productive, and it gave me an excuse to wear cut-offs all the time." He took in her costume, stopping his gaze for a moment right where he was sure she planned on his stopping it. When he looked back at her face, she was smirking. Absolutely, the reaction to the cleavage was intentional.

"Nice suit." He said. "And you're going by Superwoman now? Not Power Girl?"

"My girlfriend's idea."

"Right. I like it. It pops. And the suit is fantastic. Very striking. Love the cape. Speaking of the girlfriend, how is... uh..." Tony Stark didn't want to antagonize her by spilling their identities to the other agents.

"Lady Clairol? She's doing well. Thinking about starting classes at the University of Miami." Harris grinned, obviously proud. "She's talking about going to law school, if you can believe it. Who knows. Might take a class or two myself."

"Good for you. So... you wanted to talk. So let's talk."

"Right." Harris looked around. "Well, its like this. I want you to pack up your toys and your stormtroopers and your prejudicial Nazi bullcrap and go home. I'm not going to let you throw innocent people in prison for the rest of their lives just for the crime of wanting to help out. Your authority to enforce the Registration Act in Florida is revoked. You can come in if there's an authentic chemical weapon attack, or if Hydra is blitzing Disney World and I call for help, but if you're just here to arrest people for saving lives and stopping crime, you can go home now."

"Just like that?" He was amused at the balls on this girl, but there was no way she really thought...

"Yeah, just like that. You're not welcome in Florida anymore. If you don't leave my state immediately, I will abandon every man and woman here in the middle of the Okefenokee, then land this bucket of bolts on Mars. If I'm feeling generous when I get there, I'll leave it on Mars right side."

"You'll... really? Mars? Can you even do that?"

She stared at him for a moment, and Stark realized that she was actually quite intimidating. "Is this craft airtight and pressurized?"

"Well, yeah. Why?"

"Want me to take you now?"

"What? I mean, uh, no, that's okay." He shuddered at the thought. "Look, I realize that implementation of the Registration Act was a bit slipshod in the past, but..."

"Slipshod?" Harris actually laughed in his face. "Mr. Stark, did you know that your predecessor, Director Hill, apparently tried to arrest Captain America for the supposed 'crime' of refusing to arrest and imprison people who had not been found guilty of any crime? And that she did this before the Registration Act went into effect?"

"Um..."

"I'll assume that means no." She shook her head. "Did you know that at no point in the Registration Act does it say, 'Work for the government as an Avenger or go to prison', regardless of how fascists like you and Gyrich interpreted it?"

"Hey, I'm not a fascist."

"Oh yes you are. You've wiped your ass with the US Constitution and have imprisoned people for life with no trial. That's Nazi-level fascist bullshit right there." Harris glared. "And Mister Stark, rest assured that the nanosecond I find out where the access to your little gulag is located, I'm getting them all out and letting them all go."

"Now wait a damned minute. You can't just unilaterally ignore a Federal law." Stark was sympathetic, but the law was the law, and you couldn't pick and choose...

"Oh really? You mean like how you and the rest of your gestapo are ignoring Article One, Section Ten of the United States Constitution?" At his blank look, she smirked. "Do you know what a bill of attainder is, Mister Stark? I do. I looked it up. A bill of attainder is a law makes it a crime for a certain type of person to exist. Like, say, a law that makes being African-American a crime. Or a law that made being a woman a crime. Or, just for let's pretend, a law that made being an asshole alcoholic billionaire control freak douche bag in a tin suit a crime. Making it illegal to be a superhuman is like making it illegal to be red-headed; its not something people can help! Or how about this, Mr. Stark. Ever heard of the Thirteenth Amendment? Here's what it says. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction. I looked that one up too. And that's what your little law is really about. Slavery."

"Nonsense! That's not what..."

"Don't you nonsense me! That's exactly what you're doing. First you make it a crime for superhumans to exist at all, then you tell them that the only way to avoid going to prison for the rest of their lives just because they exist is to allow themselves to be enslaved."

She straightened, which surprised Tony because he hadn't realized she'd been slouching slightly. Standing tall, she towered over him. "I am unilaterally declaring Florida a free state. I am defending the Constitution, something you swore an oath to do when you took government office, I might point out."

"But you can't..."

"Oh can't I? What are you going to do, send in the army to catch one person?" She grabbed him by his lapels one-handed and lifted him into the air. All around them, SHIELD agents were drawing their weapons. "Here's what's about to happen. I'm going to leave. When I've left, you're going to turn this create around or so help me God I will knock it out of the sky and into space. If I need your help, I'll ask for it. Until then, stay in New York."

"I can't... we have a warrant. For you." He glanced past her at the SHIELD agents, all of whom were definitely pointing their weapons at her. "Hey, guys? Guys? Stand down. Put them down. You'd just piss her off anyway." Reluctantly, the people surrounding the two of them followed his orders. "Like I was saying. We have a warrant for your arrest."

"Charges?"

"Violating the Metahuman Registration – why are you laughing?" And she was. Not a giggle, but an outright roar of laughter.

"Stark, you do remember I'm registered, right? I know its been seven months, but Jesus, you guys do keep records, right?"

"Uh..." Stark looked around and found Phil Coulson with his eyes. He shot the senior agent a 'help me out here' glare.

"Actually, sir, she is registered. Her records need updating, obviously, but she isn't actually in violation." Coulson cleared his throat. "More accurate to say she's delinquent in reporting. But that's not even a criminal act."

Stark stared at Coulson. "You mean we're here on a bogus warrant?"

"Oh man, I am going to just own you guys, you know that? I can't wait for my lawyer to hear about this."

"Yeah, well, there is the matter of the three Federal agents you killed in Los Angeles."

"Oh please. First, Mr. Stark, somehow I doubt there's actually paperwork anywhere that made Bullseye, the Radioactive Man, and Venom federal agents in any formal sense. I'm also sure that if I looked hard enough, I could find arrest warrants for all three of them that were active when when I... when they died, rather. I'm even more sure that, with Bullseye, I can find at least one government who has issued a 'dead or alive' bounty for his ass. You put me in front of a jury and they'll be dying to exonerate me for putting him in the ground. So don't talk to me about government agents."

"Besides, how many people have you killed, Mr. Stark? Either directly or indirectly? How many of your former friends have died because they disagreed with the great Anthony Howard Stark about the Registration Act? How many times are you a murderer?" When he didn't reply, she continued. "Should I start your count at Bill Foster? Saw the funeral on TV. Quite impressive, digging a grave for a man who was forty-five feet tall. And he was one of your friends, right?"

Stark couldn't say anything. There was nothing to say.

"Yeah, I thought so. Go back to Washington and have another drink, Tony. Tell your friends that Florida is covered. I'm handling it. I've got actual world-saving to do. Actual people to help. I'm not interested in your dick-waving contest with Captain America. You're just getting in my way."

He opened his mouth to speak, but she overrode him. "One last thing, Tony. It might occur to you to try and fuck with me by using my real identity, or come at me by fucking with Louise, since you know who we both are. I want you to keep something in mind before you do that: some of the heroes who fight at your side still keep their real names and jobs and where they live a secret, but I know who they all are. I know the real names of every one of them. I know which ones are married and which ones have kids and which ones have poor sickly Aunts living out in Flatbush. What do you think Wilson Fisk would do with that information? Or Wilhelm von Strucker? Or Victor von Doom?"

"You'd really..."

"I'm not saying I would or I wouldn't. I'm saying that I'm willing to live and let live if you are."

And with that, she was gone.

XxxxxxX

Author's Note: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the property of Warner Brothers in conjunction with Mutant Enemy Productions. The Marvel Universe is the property of the Walt Disney Company. Power Girl is the property of DC Comics, which itself is the property of Warner Brothers.

Author's Note the Second: This story has a page on TV Tropes now, listing as "FanFic/OriginStory". Feel free to go, take a read, and then let me know what you think. Mickey, the guy who put it together, is apparently a fan. He and I have exchanged private messages back and forth, and he's made some remarkably accurate guesses about the general nature of where the story is headed, and as a result, I've told him about some of the upcoming plot points.

Author's Note the Third: If the plot, as I've drawn it out, goes as expected, there's only about five more chapters in this story. That said, sometimes my stories get away from me, so it could be three, or it could be seven. Probably won't be only two, or up to ten, though.

Author's Note the Fourth: Had someone send me a PM begging me to have Alex give the now-classic "World of Cardboard" speech to someone (he proposed Doctor Doom, or maybe Kang the Conqueror) sometime in this story. While its a very cool idea, I don't think I'm going to have a suitably dramatic spot in which to add an adaptation for it.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the "World of Cardboard" speech, let me enlighten you. In the very last episode of Justice League Unlimited, Darkseid has invaded earth with his para-demon forces. Superman, Batman, and (believe it or not) Lex Luthor are confronting Darkseid directly. Batman, being way, way physically outclassed by the God-Emperor of Apokalips, nevertheless attacks Darkseid, because fuck it, he's Batman. And in response to Batman's futile, yet nevertheless bad ass and heroic attack, Darkseid asks, "Why are you still fighting."

This is Superman's response: "That man wont quit as long as he can still draw a breath. None of my teammates will. Me? I've got a different problem. I feel like I live in a world made of cardboard! Always taking constant care not to break something. To break someone. Never allowing myself to lose control even for a moment, or someone could die! But you can take it, can't you big man? What we have here is a rare opportunity for me to cut loose, and show you just how powerful I really am!"

It is one of the most epic moments in the 75+ year long history of the character, and if you've never seen it, do yourself the favor. Go to YouTube, search for "World of Cardboard Speech", and sit back and enjoy the awesome.

Author's Note the Fifth: Because the admins of Twisting the Hellmouth have decided that allowing a moderator to fuck with people on a whim is more important than acting with any sort of responsibility or integrity, I (and about a half dozen other writers who used to be regular participants there) have ended my association with that archive. This story will now only be updated here, or elsewhere if I find another archive I like.

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